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Packetizer Makes an Open Source WebFinger Server Available

March 29, 2013

WebFinger is a new Internet protocol that allows people to find information about people and things on the Internet. For example, suppose you receive an email from somebody and would like to return a call to the person, but do not have the person in your contact list. If the person publishes his phone number via WebFinger, then your email client can quickly discover the phone number and provide it to you as a contact option. A person can publish nearly anything via WebFinger, including contact information, blog locations, social network identifiers, avatars, or nearly anything else.

Technically, one does not actually publish information within the WebFinger protocol itself. Rather, one publishes this information somewhere else on the Internet; WebFinger just points to that information. WebFinger essentially returns a set of links of a various types. Clients looking for particular information, such as a picture or phone number, would make additional queries to links listed in the WebFinger response. Since each link is labeled with a clearly identifiable link relation type, the client can quickly find exactly what information it is seeking.

WebFinger can simplify interaction with social networking sites, blogs, or other web sites wherein you might normally have an account and log in. When you visit a web site, you can simply provide your account identifier (e.g., your email address). The web site you are visiting can then query information about you, perhaps displaying the name and avatar you published via WebFinger. If the site allows you to post information about yourself, it might allow you to log into the site and WebFinger can help facilitate a seamless login experience using technologies like OpenID Connect.

Packetizer created an open source implementation of a WebFinger server that you are free to download and use on your web site. There are actually several WebFinger server and client implementations already available from various developers.

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